Oklahoma City, Oklahoma — We have entered the final month of this year’s legislative session with much work still ahead of us. Finalizing this year’s state budget and redistricting are the primary tasks that remain. Progress on each is slowly occurring, and I will keep you updated as proposals are publicly advanced.
However, I am proud to say several important measures have already been signed into law, including education reform legislation.
I have discussed these issues previously, and am proud to see them become law.
Under House Bill 1456, Oklahoma’s public schools would be given an annual grade of “A” to “F” based on student performance on state tests.
Under the new law, 33 percent of a school’s grade would be based upon student test scores, 17 percent on learning gains in reading and mathematics, 17 percent on improvement of the lowest 25th percentile of students in the school in reading and mathematics, and 33 percent on whole school improvement.
For middle school grades and elementary school grades, total school improvement will be based upon the drop-out rate, the percentage of students taking higher level coursework at a satisfactory or higher level, and any other factors selected by the superintendent of public instruction.
This is an important reform. The letter-grading system will provide parents a measurable, concrete and clear apples-to-apples comparison between local schools. It will help identify both success stories and areas of need in our school system, and incentivize improvement. I believe this reform will foster greater collaboration among schools so that successful strategies will be duplicated to the benefit of all Oklahoma students.
Another reform signed into law requires grade school students to master reading skills before advancing to more challenging courses.
Senate Bill 346 effectively ends “social promotion” and instead requires early intervention to help children master reading and keep them from permanently falling behind their peers. Children who struggle with reading struggle with all subject areas in higher-level grades. I believe this reform will reduce the number of dropouts in our school system and focus more attention on children with the greatest needs.
Another major bill sent to the governor this week shores up the state’s pension systems, which rank among the worst-funded in the nation.
House Bill 2132 requires lawmakers to fully fund any cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) approved in the future. Current law assumes an automatic 2-percent COLA each year without designating a funding source, which contributes significantly to funding problems in the system.
The state’s seven retirement systems have $16 billion in unfunded liability. Ten years ago, our unfunded liability was $6 billion. Clearly, we were on an unsustainable path without reform.
As always, feel free to contact me at (405)557-7365 or write me at State Capitol Office 302A, 2300 North Lincoln Blvd., Oklahoma City, OK 73105.